New business offers unique help for single moms

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While some of today’s television shows tend to glamorize single motherhood, the hard facts remain that the life of a single mother is typically not an easy one.

Without the emotional and financial support of a second parent, a single mother often finds herself working two jobs, applying for government assistance, and using other resources just to get by on a day to day basis.

Opening today in the South Cape is a unique business whose sole purpose is to help those single mothers in need make it through the tough times.

Sweet Magnolia’s Coffee House & Marketplace, a non-profit business, will provide local single mothers a number of ways to improve their quality of life.

Started by husband and wife Debbie and Allen Legg, Sweet Magnolia’s will have two distinct areas of the business to accomplish that mission.

The marketplace will be full of handcrafted items such as crafts, furniture, clothes, homemade detergents, soaps and candles, floral arrangements and other items created by local residents for sale to the public. After covering expenses, the proceeds from the sales will go back those single mothers who made the items in an effort to help with their financial struggles, “It won’t make them millionaires, but it will give them the extra money needed to pay for such things as electric and phone bills. It gives them a little breathing room,” explains Debbie.

The second part of the business will be the coffee house. Debbie says she envisions the coffee house as a gathering place for local single mothers, hosting events such as Coffee Night and other social events to bring single mothers together to help build a support network for each other, “Single mothers are very isolated in our society. They don’t quite fit in with single women or married women,” says Debbie. “If we can put single moms together and help one another that would be a beautiful thing.”

The idea of such a business came after Debbie and Allen, like many in recent years, went through their own tough times, “We stepped out to do something, and it didn’t work and lost everything. That is when we began to see what financial crisis is and what the needs really are.”

It was also during this time that Debbie began relying heavily on her faith and became involved in her ministry. Soon she was ministering at the Lee County Juvenile Detention Center and working at the Crisis Pregnancy Center. It was there she found common denominators in women that called those places home, “One was poverty and the other was broken marriage. It was seeing moms trying to raise kids on their own with very little money and many times failing.”

That experience, coupled with their religious faith, and seeing their own daughter face her own divorce and life as a single mother led the couple down their current path, “We wanted to do something that would give these women a ray of hope. Something to help them dig themselves out of that hole before it is too late.”

With that,  the two began working on their dream, and soon things began to fall into place.

Allen, who works in the furniture business, began using his skills building and refinishing the furnishings that fill the new location. Debbie used her years of sales and marketing experience to garner community support. Soon, they had a location, furnishings and products to open the doors and all at a cost of less than $2,000. The business has also seen an immediate impact from social media. Since getting the word out about the business, Debbie started a Facebook page, “Help for Single Moms” that has already gained nearly 100 members in a short amount of time, “The community has been great in supporting us.”

Now, that the doors are open, the real work begins. While the marketplace is up and running, Debbie says the coffee house will need more time to be fully functional, “We are trying to raise the money to bring the plumbing up to code to open the coffee house. We hope to have that open in the very near future.”

In the meantime, the marketplace is open and ready for business. Debbie recently partnered with a ministry in Haiti that supports local single mothers much in the same way Sweet Magnolia’s will for local mothers. The Haiti ministry is sending goat skin leather journals, jewelry, satchels, and other items to be sold in the store. The money made from those sales, not only helps local mothers here in, Southwest Florida, but also those in Haiti, “We purchase items from them to be exclusively sold here, and it not only helps our local mothers, but theirs as well.”

Debbie hopes the opening of the marketplace is just the start of helping those women in need, “We are just beginning and we want to make a difference.”

Part of that difference will be growing the organization to meet the needs of as many local single mothers as possible. The couple hope to use the business as a springboard for single women with children who want to use their baking, sewing, and other basic skills to move on to start their own businesses, “We would love to be a village shop with a lot of small boutiques,” says Debbie.

In the meantime, the couple is just looking to help those single mothers, not just with immediate needs, but to build skills that will continue to benefit them for years to come, “We are not a hand out. We are a hand up. We see the missing link in our society and where the needs are. We want to try and help fulfill those needs.”

For more information about Sweet Magnolia’s Coffee House & Marketplace, call (239) 245-1794 or stop by their new location between 8:00am and 6:00pm at 909 SE 47th Terrace #101.